A spokesman for Alaska Republican hopeful Dan Sullivan has told KMXT that inevitable scheduling conflicts are behind the candidate missing the fisheries debate in Kodiak scheduled for October 1st.
Mike Anderson said that over 20 organizations have shown interest in hosting a debate, and that Sullivan is scheduled to be on a campaign swing elsewhere in rural Alaska during the Kodiak debate.
Kodiak Chamber of Commerce director Trevor Brown said that the debate is going on whether Sullivan shows up or not. It could turn into a Begich town meeting like the scheduled Alaska Native Brotherhood debate in Southeast recently that Sullivan was invited to, but skipped.
For his part, Begich told KMXT yesterday afternoon that he is coming to Kodiak on October 1st no matter what.
“Just before the primary actually, we put out a notice of all the requests that we received for debate and forums. We accepted 13 of them. He’s only done one, the one that was on the internet. And it was with the Liberty group, you know, Tea Party, libertarian, those groups that I showed up to, right? I wasn’t afraid to talk about the issues in a group that may not be as supportive, as you can imagine, some of my positions. And my understanding is he hasn’t committed to any other debates at this time. Which we have,” Begich said. “We are not afraid. This debate, as you know, is very detailed. A lot of good issues come up in it and it would be a great opportunity, but I’m going to show up anyway.”
Begich said he was surprised and disappointed upon hearing of Sullivan’s exit, saying the fisheries debate is a “must-do” for statewide candidates.
“To me it’s somewhat amazing and surprising when you think about it;” Begich said. “This is probably one of the most important debates when it comes to our largest employer, supporting thousands of fishermen and families and business throughout Alaska. It’s about jobs, it’s about the economy. For him not willing to stand up and put his positions on the table, I think it’s surprising, and I think a disappointment for Alaskans.”
Sullivan’s stance on issues such as the Pebble Mine is not popular with commercial fishermen, especially in southwest Alaska, and though fishermen are in no way a monolithic voting bloc, the United Fishermen of Alaska has already endorsed Begich.
“Even if you are not a commercial fisherman, or a sports fisherman, or a subsistence user, you still would like to know, on an industry that touches so many Alaskans in so many ways, where you stand. He’s unwilling to let Alaskans know,” Begich said. “I think that’s like sending an unknown to Washington D.C. and put at risk what Alaska has, that’s sustainable fisheries.”
Kodiak’s Laine Welch, with whom the Chamber contracts to organize the event, said in an e-mail that she is hoping Libertarian Party candidate for Senate Mark Fish will accept the invitation to attend. Currently, the senatorial portion of the event will be in the first hour, with U.S. House candidates in the second. She added that Don Young will be attending and that she is waiting to hear from Democrat Forrest Dunbar.